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BISD STRONG Awards handed out for Fall 2020 & Winter 2021


Anna's award

More than 75 people were nominated for BISD STRONG Awards during this cycle. BISD STRONG Awards are a way to recognize and celebrate the many individuals who make BISD STRONG with their strong minds, strong hearts and a strong sense of community. 

And the winners are...



Jen L

Jennifer Ledbetter, 4th Grade Teacher

  • Jen’s ability to captivate a classroom with her incredible nurturing spirit is unprecedented.
  • Blakely and the BISD community are so lucky to have her for all she does
  • I am a parent who has had two daughters in Mrs. Ledbetter's 4th-grade class. My two daughters are completely different kids - both in personality and in learning style - and yet to both of them, she is their favorite teacher.  
  • Ms. Ledbetter is truly an amazing leader and really inspired the kids to keep learning online.  She was cheerful when students were not, helpful and kind and continued to have expectations for them.  As a result, my daughter became a more independent learner.    
  • Jen will spend countless hours developing instruction to connect with her students.  She is always seeking new and creative tasks that are engaging for her 4th graders. When schools closes last year, the very next week she had a video she filmed to share with her students called "Work for Me" that they absolutely loved.
  •  Jen is at the heart of our staff culture, always coming up with creative ways to connect with fun, games, and competition.
  • Jen is one of the most hard-working and caring teachers that I have ever met.  Not only does she rock teaching in-person, she delivers that and more in Continuous Learning.
  • Words used to describe Jen: professional, strong, funny smart, creative, kind, inclusive, engaging, empathetic


dave wiacek

Dave Wiacek, Custodian

  •  He always was nice to me and my friends while we played ping pong.  He always was rooting one of us on if he wasn't busy cleaning up. My friends and I really appreciated having him there. We couldn't have asked for a better custodian
  • He would cheer us on which made us feel good. He also cleaned up messes that students made. I really think this person should be recognized for how amazing he is.
  • Words used to describe Dave:  kind, hardworking, fun, and cool.

Susan Irish

Susan Irish, Counselor

  • She gets this age group. She worked hard to figure out our child’s scheduling issues before school started and patiently talked us through the options. I have since called her twice when we were facing other challenges with remote schooling and was impressed by how she quickly understood and helped by providing sage advice.
  • Her communication indicated she understood our child and the issues we were having. She shared her own stories and insight and reassured me that we were on the right path. Parenting can be tricky for this age group and at this time. We feel grateful for this kind of support.
  • Words used to describe Susan:  thoughtful, straightforward, understanding, supportive.

Viviana Van Ness, Paraeducator

  • Viviana has done a wonderful job returning to work in the building with students to help them be successful by supporting them in person.  Her enthusiasm and support help to keep kids organized. 
  • Viviana is helping students that teachers have been unable to reach online.
  • Words used to describe Viviana: kind, smart, helpful, brave, bilingual


Sam Hodus

Sam Hodus, 5th grader

  • Sam is a very hard worker and is supportive to ALL of his classmates and teachers!
  • Sam shows his strong heart through support and encouragement.  He always has a kind word to say to each student that shares during class.  He shows empathy and understanding when listening to others speak.  Sam shows a strong mind with his dedication to his school work. He is a very hard worker and can always be relied on to contribute with humor, wit, and wisdom to any class discussion.  Sam is a strong presence in the Sakai community.  He is willing to give a helping hand.  He offers to assist teachers and fellow students.  
  • Words used to describe Sam: respectful, reliable, reasonable, and responsible (Sakai 4 R's).  He is also smart, funny, supportive, helpful, and curious!

Ailene Isaf, Paraeducatorar

  • Ailene has poured her heart into Sakai.  For so many years, Ailene has been the soul of our school.  She provides structure to students who don’t have it at home.  She is the adult that will always listen and has a smile to share.  For staff, Ailene is the person that you go to when you are having a hard day or worse having a hard year or family struggles.  She is reassuring, kind, and never judges.
  • She runs our Sakai Social Network.  She collects money for our staff to support each other in times of need.  She sends emails to notify and coordinate our support. She then sends cards, flowers, gift cards, etc on behalf of our staff.  She keeps our hearts whole and our community strong at Sakai.
  • Ailene is a loving compassionate person that always puts students and staff first.



Lydia Scheiber, Technology Support Specialist

  • Lydia has a calm and cheerful attitude regarding ANY work that needs to be done.
  • Recently we went through a migration from Windows 7, which is no longer supported by Microsoft, to Windows 10.  Lydia handled most of this project willingly going wherever needed to work one-on-one with Administrators and staff to upgrade their computers.  She would stay while they logged on to Windows 10 to make sure everything was correct.  While there she did extra duties like checking everyone's bookmarks to make sure they were still valid and cleaned them up.  Of course, she answered many other questions while they had her there about using drives, documents, and many others.  
  • Lydia also handles most of the district's landlines and cell phones when changes need to be made to names, numbers, the important 911 location identity system, or securing new cell phones.  She does a great job and is very knowledgeable in this area.
  • Lydia spends a lot of time with our student interns.  She is patient and professional and always has a plan ready for them when they arrive.
  • Words used to describe Lydia: Technology savvy in both hardware and software. Thinks and processes before she speaks. Willingly goes to any location to "see for herself" and solve problems; an excellent troubleshooter. Great telephone voice and skills. Calm and methodical.

Kiyo Toma

Kiyo Toma, Director of Technology

  • Kiyo’s leadership of all staff involved in the process of providing technology for staff and students has been nothing short of amazing
  • To step into this role and be faced with this situation is mind-blowing,  but the way he has handled it has been incredible. Indescribable 
  • Strong Heart=Through our twice-weekly tech staff Zoom meetings Kiyo has checked in with each of us to see how we are doing and starts each meeting with Thank Yous and Success.
  • Strong Mind=This has been shown by Kiyo being the leader in hitting the ground running with implementing distance learning for our district from admin, educator, students, and parents. From adopting new platforms, training upon training, communicating clearly and frequently, and keeping all these moving parts organized Kiyo has demonstrated a Strong Mind indeed.
  • Strong Community=During this current crisis Kiyo has been in communication with all levels and all facets of our community.  His amazing efforts have helped ensure our community of learners can continue to be inquisitive learners in this time of need.  By making sure our learners have the proper tech equipment and support for that equipment and its educational programs, Kiyo has positively impacted all corners of our community.
  • Words used to describe Kiyo: committed, unflappable, driven to the success of staff and students with technology, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, and humble.


Heidi L

Heidi Langendorff, Reading Club Teacher

  • Heidi is always willing to help and support her students.  
  • Heidi shares her knowledge of the Science of Reading with co-workers and families.  She helps parents understand how to support their children at home.   
  • Heidi finds books that her students are excited to read.  She gives them time to read them with her and promotes reading for fun.  
  • She has worked with students in the summer who needed extra help.   She has created one-on-one time for kids who have specific needs. 
  • A few years ago Heidi did a Yoga class for teachers.  Teachers attended for free. Many teachers looked forward to this class. It seemed to bring staff closer together.   
  • Her ability to build confidence, perseverance and problem-solving skills in her students helps them feel and be successful at school.  She is a dedicated teacher who is passionate about helping every individual she knows learn to love and enjoy books!
  • Heidi goes above and beyond to provide extra support and care to struggling readers. The work she has put in this fall has been even more exceptional than in years past. Seeing how my child's reading has blossomed over the past few months, despite being in the midst of a pandemic, is a credit to the dedication Heidi has for her students. 
  • Heidi represents a BISD strong heart by the care and dedication she shows to her reading club students. Her work is building my son's confidence, not just in his reading, but overall. Heidi's patience and care have fostered a growth mindset in my son, allowing him to believe in himself.
  • Words used to describe Heidi: caring, knowledgeable, patient, strong, supportive, compassionate, dedicated, calm, funny, encouraging

Leslie Decina

Leslie Decina, 2nd Grade Teacher

  • I am in awe of how Mrs. Decina facilitates her 2nd-grade classes over Zoom. She somehow makes time for every child to engage and contribute, while still covering an incredible amount of material. The tone of her Zooms is always upbeat and warm.
  • Mrs. Decina has managed to create a wonderful classroom community, which I think is amazing in this remote learning environment. My son is loving 2nd grade and has learned so much already. 
  • Words used to describe Leslie: dedicated, patient, kind, enthusiastic, genuine, understanding

Anna Fehrenbacher

Anna Fehrenbacher, 4th Grade Teacher

  • She's been a great teacher through and through. She also has a ton of experience and many of her past students (including me) absolutely loved their year with her.
  • It's quite obvious to me how Mrs. Fehrenbacher helps a strong community, by trying her best to give her fourth-graders personalized learning experiences. When I was in Mrs. Fehrenbacher's class, she always did her best to challenge me by showing me a bunch of hard-level puzzles. With the kids who were behind the rest of the class, she showed them cool tricks to learn the material easier.
  • Words used to describe Anna: caring, kind, hardworking, very smart

Susan Gace

Susan Gace, 1st Grade Teacher

  • Mrs. Gace is calm and unflappable, (which seems impossible to me when you’re in charge of 20+ six-year-olds). She cares so much about her students and works so hard to help them reach their full potential and feel confident in the classroom. It’s clear that she takes time to get to know her students well, and as parents, we’ve really appreciated how often she communicates with us
  • Mrs. Gace’s strength is her patience, and she models kindness in the way she manages her classroom and communicates with her students. She fosters a strong community in her class, by promoting pro-social behavior between her students, and always champions her students’ needs and fosters their strengths. She is a fantastic teacher and BISD is so lucky to have her!
  • Words used to describe Susan: kind, compassionate, pro-active, patient, warm, competent, communicative


Rebecca K

Rebecca Keach, 2nd Grade Teacher

  • Ms. Keach's is committed to making sure every child is engaged in their learning
  • The online system has been tough for my Wilkes student because he responds best when he has close relationships with his teachers, something that does not happen automatically in an online environment with a teacher he's never met in person. Ms. Keach has been working with our family to find ways to help my son feel more connected to her, and his classmates, including setting up one-on-one Zoom calls and helping him find work that interests him. 
  • Words used to describe Rebecca: Adaptive, Responsive, Kind


Siri Miller

Siri Miller, Art Teacher

  • Siri Miller is a very good example of BISD STRONG, and she always makes sure every student feels included and happy.
  • Siri always makes art easy and fun, even for those who think they can't draw. She has adapted to teaching via distance learning very well and is always kind and patient. She will always help you if you are having trouble, and she makes sure that her class is enjoyable for everyone
  • Words used to describe Siri: Patient, funny, caring, thoughtful


Elena C

Elena Conklin, 12th grader

  • She is endlessly optimistic and always striving to make everyone feel included and appreciated. Even during the rough patch of online school, she still got everything done on top of applying to colleges and being a co-captain of the swim team. Her dedication to the community and everyone she meets is undeniable.
  • She applies herself rigorously, even when she could probably get by with a lot less effort. She is a 4-year member of Circle of Friends, and continued to do it over zoom during online learning. She also TA’s for a freshman Spanish class, and I have seen the compassion and personal connection she forms with the 9th graders by joking around and trying to engage every single person, even though they all had their cameras off.
  • She is also a co-captain of the swim team, which is an elected position and the fact that she is beloved by her teammates is clearly represented. She is constantly trying to be the best self she can be, and to bring that out in those around her.
  • She absolutely has a Strong Heart and believes in Strong Community with all the work that she puts in because of the joy it brings others. I promise you, any teacher, coach, or friend that you talk to will immediately agree that she is literally the perfect person for this award.
  • Words used to describe Elena: optimistic, Hard-working. Intelligent, Compassionate, Thoughtful, Hilarious, Open-minded, Outgoing, Inclusive, Kind, Brave

Lisa Hale

Lisa Hale, Math Teacher

  • Every student who mentions her absolutely adores her! She takes care of every one of her students with amazing enthusiasm and positivity. She knows her subject and makes sure her students do too.
  • She reaches out to make sure her students are doing ok- if they mess up on a quiz or test. She makes sure to bring them where they need to be. She never wants any student to feel anxious or hopeless. She has the biggest heart and uses it to encourage and uplift her students. She will help them anytime, anywhere.
  • She truly believes if her students aren’t doing well and understanding their math, then it is her responsibility to fix it. She cares about her kids’ learning!
  • Words used to describe Lisa: upbeat, positive, enthusiastic, caring, funny, helpful

Joe Rice

Joe Rice, Social Studies Teacher

  • I was lucky enough to have Mr. Rice as my history teacher my sophomore year. Going into his class I wasn’t that into history, and by the end of the year it was my favorite subject. 
  • The way he taught changed both my view on the past but also on the present. He was a dedicated and understanding teacher who I’m really grateful to have had. He made the transition into online learning as smooth as possible and despite the huge struggle, he still made the class engaging and interesting. He wasn’t scared to talk to us about the big stuff, and included many lectures and discussions, giving us a safe place to talk about what was happening in the world. The fact that I still enjoyed his class through online learning just shows how good of a teacher he is. 
  • He had a relationship with all the students in my class and was supportive. He was a rock and a class to look forward to when we transitioned to online learning and his class was always enjoyable. 
  • Words used to describe Joe: dependable, kind, smart, supportive 

Alex McCulloch, 11th grader

  • He is an awesome example of continuing on with life even when the world seems to be falling apart.
  • Alex is one of our amazing teenagers on the island. During quarantine, he has stayed in touch with his friends online, maintained a job, advanced his space photography skills which are amazing, and helped others. For example, he’s helped people fix their cars and build computers. Alex never throws a pity party, instead, he focuses on living a great life
  • Alex has brought a lot of smiles to our family during quarantine.
  • Words used to describe Alex: energetic, caring, focused, driven

Know someone who is BISD STRONG? Nominate them today! The nomination cycle closes on May 14, 2021.